I just read Tara Parker Pope’s New York Times piece (Sunday July 13, 2008) on the American Academy of Pediatrics cholesterol position and I’m disappointed. Without so much as a shred of evidence, Ms. Pope suggests a link between the AAP’s recommendations and inappropriate influence by the pharmaceutical industry. As a major manufacturer of vaccines, Merck, for example, has a longstanding history of support for medical education. To imply that such support would in any way influence AAP policy on child health is irresponsible.
Beyond implicating the Academy, Ms. Pope creates more innuendo when she details the history of funding support for individual members of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition. But the piece is unable to make any connection between support for a visiting professorship five years ago, for example, and a 2008 opinion on cholesterol. But the suggestion of a connection it seems is enough to question the integrity of several esteemed academic pediatricians.
The American Academy of Pediatrics takes conflict of interest very seriously. The suggestion of impropriety in this piece is an insult to an organization that has always put the interest of children above all else. Beyond insult, Ms. Pope and the New York Times have done their part to erode the confidence of the public in AAP policies.
As a long-time fan of Ms. Pope I have always held her as an icon of medical journalism. Beginning with her work with the Wall Street Journal I have compulsively read most everything she ever put into print. For pediatric trainees I have held her writing as an example of how to take complicated medical material and translate it for easy understanding.
But what changed on Sunday with Ms. Pope isn’t clear. All I know is that I never read anything quite like this in the Wall Street Journal.
Dr Gwenn has a post today that covers the issue. She’s had some correspondence with the AAP and her post is worth a look.